Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Being Alone at Christmas Doesn't Mean Being Lonely

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently moved across the country for a job. I’m excited about this opportunity, and things are working out pretty well so far. My issue is that I cannot travel home for Christmas. It’s too expensive, plus I am new to the job and get only two days off. It makes no sense to travel 3,000 miles for two days.

I don’t know many people in my new city, because I’ve just been working. Now I am in a predicament. I usually spend a week with my family wrapping presents, putting up decorations, cooking, everything that families do. I have no idea what to do this year. I don’t know where to begin. Can you give me some ideas? -- Alone at Christmas, San Diego

DEAR HARRIETTE: It can be lonely to be so far away from your family during the holidays. The good news is that there are options everywhere.

I recommend volunteering at an organization that helps others. This will make you happy for sure! You just need to do a little research. Most churches offer meals to homeless and low-income people. They always need help serving food and sometimes in food preparation. Check with your local chamber of commerce for volunteer opportunities. Same goes for libraries, shopping centers and food kitchens.

One more thing: Use Skype, FaceTime or another video-conferencing tool to connect with your family each day of the holiday season.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister is super generous, so much so that I feel like I need to tell her to slow down. Whenever she crosses paths with a homeless person, she gives them money. During the holiday season, she ramps it up even more and gives more money to individuals she runs into as well as to charity. I know she has a great heart, but I worry about her finances. She has a low-paying job, and she will be retiring soon. I keep telling her she needs to keep some money for herself, but she won’t listen to me. I would never want her to stop being generous, but how can I get her to pay attention to herself, too? Nobody in our family has a lot of money. If she retires without enough to care for herself, I am afraid she might hit hard times. That would be too ironic, given how generous she has been her whole life. -- Taking Care of Sis, Little Rock, Arkansas

DEAR TAKING CARE OF SIS: Your sister has tremendous faith as well as a generous heart. Her faith tells her that she will be OK. Your practical concern about her well-being may be the perfect support to her somewhat blind faith. Ask your sister if she will allow you to review her finances -- for the purpose of helping her plan for retirement. Do not talk directly about her generosity. Focus on her personal finances. Point out that she is always giving to others, and you want to make sure that she gives to herself, too.

Suggest that she get a personal financial adviser who can assist her in reviewing her retirement funds and strategy. Your job is to point her in the right direction.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)